Human foods, products can kill pets

Medicines, fruits, veggies dangerous for animals

MIAMI - An apple a day may keep the doctor away for humans, but the cyanide in apple seeds can kill your dog.
Surprised? You're not alone.

The ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center over 100,000 calls each year. Most cases of animal poisoning were caused by common household items.

Sixty-eight percent of the calls had to do with an animal having ingested a medicine or drug normally prescribed for humans. It is the most common cause of pet poisoning in the U.S. And it's not just a case of Fido getting into his pet parent's medicine cabinet.

In many cases, experts say, pet owners give their feline and canine friends an over-the-counter medication to ease an animal's pain. But acetaminophen and ibuprofen, the active ingredients in many common pain relievers, are extremely toxic to dogs and cats. They can cause gastric ulcers, liver damage, kidney failure and sometimes death.

In 2007, the discovery of rat poison in some brands of popular dog and cat foods sparked a massive recall after dozens of animals reportedly got sick or died from eating the tainted food. And while you wouldn't dream of intentionally feeding your pet rat or mouse poison, it's easy enough for them to accidentally eat it if it's left somewhere where they can get to it. Be a responsible pet parent and keep all poisons in tightly sealed containers on shelves high enough where your curious pets can't get to them.

Mothballs are another common cause of poisoning in pets. Those that contain 100 percent naphthalene can be deadly.

If you use fabric softener sheets, keep them away from your pet pals. These sheets contain detergents known as cationics that are potentially harmful, especially to cats.

Pennies minted after 1982 are made of copper plating around zinc core. Experts say that the zinc in just one penny can cause kidney failure and damage red blood cells in pets.

In The Kitchen

While it's OK to occasionally treat your pets to people food, beware that many foods that humans enjoy can be dangerous to animals. Here are a few of the most toxic.

If your Cinco de Mayo celebration calls for guacamole, keep your pet pals away from the table. Avocados contain a toxic component called persin, which can damage heart, lung and other tissue in many animals.

And we've all seen the cute commercial where a dog goes to the refrigerator and gets his human a beer. But there's a reason why you never see the dog sharing that beer. Alcoholic beverages can cause the same damage to an animal's liver and brain as they cause in humans. But the effects can be deadly on smaller animals.

Nuts are also common party fare that can be hazardous to pets. Walnuts and macadamia nuts are especially toxic.

Chocolate is supposedly good for human hearts. But chocolate contains theobromine, which if eaten in enough quantity, can kill your pet pal. Dark and unsweetened baking chocolates are especially dangerous.

Another problem is candy or anything containing Xylitol, a common sweetener found in some diet products, which can cause a sudden drop in an animal's blood sugar, loss of coordination and seizures. If not treated, the animal could die.

Keep cherry pits, peach pits, pear pips, plums pits and apricot pits far away from your pets. Like apple seeds, they all contain cyanide. There's also the danger that an animal may choke on large pits.

Coffee, tea or any product that contains caffeine stimulates an animal's central nervous and cardiac systems. This can lead to restlessness, heart palpitations and death, depending on how much the animal consumes.

Grapes and raisins can lead to kidney failure in dogs. As little as a single serving of raisins can kill them. And their effect is cumulative, meaning that even if a dog eats just one or two grapes or raisins regularly, the toxicity that builds in his system will eventually kill him.

Onions are another common food that can be highly toxic pets. They can destroy an animal's red blood cells and lead to anemia, weakness and breathing difficulties. Their effects are also cumulative over time.

In The Yard

According to APCC, June, July and August are the deadliest months of the year for pets. About 47 percent of pet poisonings during those months involved exposure to pesticides and herbicides.

Something as harmless as a walk through a lawn newly treated with one of these products can poison a pet that licks its paws afterwards.

You should also watch for wild mushrooms that sprout up in your yard. They can cause abdominal pain, drooling, liver and kidney damage, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma and death.

If you pride yourself on growing your own tomatoes, keep your pets away from them. Tomatoes contain atropine, a product sometimes used to treat eye problems in animals. But too much atropine can cause dilated pupils, tremors and heart arrhythmias. The leaves and stems of tomato plants have particularly high levels of atropine.

Prepare For Emergencies

Despite all the precautions you take to keep your pet pals safe, accidents do happen. That's why the ASPCA, Humane Society and animal advocates advise pet owners to keep the telephone number of their local veterinarian and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center -- (888) 426-4435 -- in a prominent location.

Common signs of poisoning include muscle tremors or seizures; vomiting and diarrhea; drooling; redness of skin, ears and eyes; and swelling and bleeding.

If you suspect your pet has consumed, inhaled or come in contact with a toxic substance, stay calm and call for help immediately.

You will be asked for the following:

  • Your pet's species, breed, age, sex and weight
  • Exact name of product ingested, inhaled, or absorbed. If possible, have the product's container available
  • How much the animal consumed or came in contact with
  • How long ago did this occur?

If you see your pet consuming anything you think might be toxic, seek emergency help immediately even if she is not exhibiting any symptoms.

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